At the end of April, Microsoft boldly stated their goal for the adoption of their next operating system: 1 Billion Devices to run Windows 10 by 2018. This lofty goal might seem over ambitious, especially when we look at the current state of the PC ecosystem where sales continue to decline. However, Microsoft is playing the one ace it has always held very close to its chest; releasing its services to competitors platforms. From Office on iOS and Android, to open sourcing its valuable ‘dot Net’ technology, Satya Nadella’s Microsoft has realized that size is meaningless if one loses relevancy. To that end, Microsoft today announced that Cortana, Redmond’s alternative to Siri and Google Now, will be available as an application on both iOS and Android devices.
First introduced in Windows Phone 8.1, Cortana aims to be a users digital assistant by collating data on the user’s device and actively providing feedback that helps the user be more productive. For example, Cortana can recognize that an appointment is mentioned in a SMS, and prompt the users to add it to their schedule. Cortana can also tell where you work based on your driving patterns and thus provide live traffic updates every morning before you leave for work. A user can also interact with Cortana by asking her to search items, open applications, or even provide location based reminders.
With Windows 10, Microsoft expanded Cortana’s capabilities by integrating features that can help users be more productivity during their work day. Users can now tell Cortana to dictate an email, or even perform search data within a companies big data repository. As Cortana moves beyond search into interaction with all of a user’s software regardless of device (be it on a laptop or a mobile device), it is evident that Cortana must exist beyond Windows Ecosystem especially on Mobile. With 91% of the global PC market share running Windows, but less than 5% of the global smartphone market share, Microsoft has made the right move to offer Cortana on iOS and Android.
How Will It Work
Windows 10 will have an inbuilt Phone Companion app will act as a guide to the different Microsoft apps that users will need to install to their smartphones and thus, be able to extend their Windows 10 experience. For example, if a user uses OneDrive as their cloud storage, the phone companion app will instruct the user to download the OneDrive app that pertains to their device (be it with Windows Phone, Android or iOS). These apps include Office, OneDrive, Skype, OneNote, Xbox and now Cortana.
“We’re gonna ensure that Windows 10 works great with whatever device you have” Joe Belfiore, Corporate Vice President, Operating Systems Group at Microsoft
This means that a user could work on Office document on their PC at work and when they get back home, they could ask Cortana to open the same document for a quick edit on their mobile phone. Though Microsoft hasn’t announced it yet, we could see Cortana be able to send text messages to another mobile device from the PC.
These companion apps will be able available to Windows Insiders in June 2015.
Obstacles to Success
Cortana works best when it is localized, not only in terms of geographical point of interest data, but for language as well. Even though Cortana has been in public existence for just over a year, it is still in Beta for the US region and Alpha for several other regions. Microsoft will need to invest significant resources to quickly localize Cortana when Windows 10 launches. Otherwise, they risk alienating users who updated to Windows 10 yet find that they cannot access publicized features.
As both Apple and Google have their own digital assistants in Siri and Google Now (respectively), Microsoft has to ensure that Cortana is matches the features of the native client, and provides value add services that the native client cant. As the Cortana may not have the same access to the operating system that the native digital assistant adds, some features that exists in Cortana will not be available on iOS and Android.
It is only time that will tell if this strategy stems the decline in PC sales as well as boosts the sales of Microsoft’s mobile devices.